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Book Nook - 05-11-2018

Monday, November 05, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to adc.booknook@gmail.com

Families Are Made Of This
David Sedaris writes in a funny way about everyday things that most people won’t notice—like shops at the airport trying to sell you stuff you don’t need, but he can expertly blend humour with empathy and pathos when he writes about subjects like aging, depression, suicide. His family and long-time partner Hugh appear in many of the essays in 'Calpyso'—pieces that are part fictional, and always engaging.

 His regular readers know about his large brood—there was his loving but alcoholic mother who died years ago, his old and tetchy father, who lives alone in a messy house, but won’t move out or accept help; there is a bunch of siblings, their spouses, a supersmart niece, and enduring memories of sister Tiffany, who committed suicide. (At some point on the book Sedaris confesses that he slammed the door on the troubled and troublesome Tiffany and never saw her again.)

'Calypso', Sedaris’s tenth collection of story-essays has a lot more of his family in it; the joyous times spent in the amusingly named beach cottage, Sea Section, on the North Carolina coast, where the clan gathers regularly for holidays—the house that that Sedaris and Hugh purchased to fulfill the wish that,  “one day I would buy a beach house and it would be everyone’s, as long as they followed my draconian rules and never stopped thanking me for it”. There are anecdotes around the house—like the time his sister Lisa and he went for a walk on the beach and could not figure which of the near-identical sea front cottages was theirs.

Sedaris writes about getting obsessed with his fitness device and spending hours walking (“Before, once we’d eaten dinner, I was in for the evening. Now, though, as soon as I’m finished with the dishes, I walk to the pub and back, a distance of 3,895 steps”), and cleaning up trash on the way while he is out and about, so that a garbage truck is named after him. In another hilarious episode, a reader, who claims to be a doctor, removes a tumour under Sedaris’s skin, which he then collects to feed to a turtle.

If he writes with humour about his family's belief in ghosts, his sister's encounter with a psychic of his father's admiration of Trump, he can turn the smiles to tears when he writes about the shame of incontinence. There is a fine balance of light and darkness in 'Calypso' to make it amusing as well as deeply poignant.

Calypso
By David Sedaris
Publisher: Little, Brown
Pages: 288

 

Excerpt of Calypso
Company Man

Though there's an industry built on telling you otherwise, there are few real joys to middle age. The only perk I can see is that, with luck, you'll acquire a guest room. Some people get one by default when their kids leave home, and others, like me, eventually trade up and land a bigger house. "Follow me," I now say. The room I lead our visitors to has not been hastily rearranged to accommodate them. It does not double as an office or weaving nook but exists for only one purpose. I have furnished it with a bed rather than a fold-out sofa, and against one wall, just like in a hotel, I've placed a luggage rack. The best feature, though, is its private bathroom.

"If you prefer a shower to a tub, I can put you upstairs in the second guest room," I say. "There's a luggage rack up there as well." I hear these words coming from my puppet-lined mouth and shiver with middle-aged satisfaction. Yes, my hair is gray and thinning. Yes, the washer on my penis has worn out, leaving me to dribble urine long after I've zipped my trousers back up. But I have two guest rooms.

The consequence is that if you live in Europe, they attract guests—lots of them. People spend a fortune on their plane tickets from the United States. By the time they arrive they're broke and tired and would probably sleep in our car if we offered it. In Normandy, where we used to have a country place, any visitors were put up in the attic, which doubled as Hugh's studio and smelled of oil paint and decaying mice. It had a rustic cathedral ceiling but no heat, meaning it was usually either too cold or too hot. That house had only one bathroom, wedged between the kitchen and our bedroom. Guests were denied the privacy a person sometimes needs on the toilet, so twice a day I'd take Hugh to the front door and shout behind us, as if this were normal behavior, "We're going out for exactly twenty minutes. Does anyone need anything from the side of the road?"

That was another problem with Normandy: there was nothing for our company to do except sit around. Our village had no businesses in it and the walk to the nearest village that did was not terribly pleasant. This is not to say that our visitors didn't enjoy themselves—just that it took a certain kind of person, outdoorsy and self-motivating.
In West Sussex, where we currently live, having company is a bit easier. Within a ten-mile radius of our house, there's a quaint little town with a castle in it and an equally charming one with thirty-seven antique stores. There are chalk-speckled hills one can hike up, and bike trails. It's a fifteen-minute drive to the beach and an easy walk to the nearest pub.

Guests usually take the train from London, and before we pick them up at the station I remind Hugh that, for the duration of their visit, he and I will be playing the role of a perfect couple. This means no bickering and no contradicting each other. If I am seated at the kitchen table and he is standing behind me, he is to place a hand on my shoulder, right on the spot where a parrot would perch if I were a pirate instead of the ideal boyfriend. When I tell a story he has heard so often he could lip-synch it, he is to pretend to be hearing it for the first time and to be appreciating it as much as or more than our guests are. I'm to do the same, and to feign delight when he serves something I hate, like fish with little bones in it. I really blew this a few years back when his friend Sue came for the night and he poached what might as well have been a hairbrush. Blew it to such an extent that after she left I considered having her killed. "She knows too much," I said to Hugh. "The woman's a liability now and we need to contain her."

 

SHORT TAKES
Sudha Menon's Feisty At Fifty is "Candid, fun … an upbeat take on hitting the big five-oh' SHOBHAA DÉ If you ever thought that women in their fifties must lead dull, boring lives, Sudha Menon is here to bust your myths and show you that life indeed begins at fifty. Join this wise and witty fifty-something in pursuing middle-aged sexiness, nailing the work-life balance, taking on the FOMO, celebrating mid-life discoveries and generally feeling great about ourselves. Hilarious yet poignant, Feisty at Fifty is both a moving personal story and the ultimate guide to making the fifties the most fabulous decade of your life yet."

Feisty at Fifty: How I Stay Fabulous at Fifty-Plus
By Sudha Menon
Publisher: Pan Macmillan India
Pages: 248



The summary of Gitanjali Gurbaxani's coffee table book reads, "Cuisine from time immemorial has given a distinct identity to a region simultaneously echoing the culture of the same. A place where cooking food is considered an art form, one can only imagine what a lip-smacking treat is awaiting a man in love with authentic food. Jodhpur is one such city that offers sumptuous and simply irresistible delicacies, leaving you asking for more.

"Of all the cuisines in the world, this one is one of the most aromatic and colorful, one that has evolved from the kitchens of the Marwar kingdom, which was renowned for age-old traditions of hospitality and food. The city’s cultural tapestry takes in simple folk to highly cultivated classical music and dance, in its own distinct style.

"Not everyone gets invited to the kitchen of the Royal family of Jodhpur to see how their food is custom made. This book showcases the ancestral recipes from the royal family of Jodhpur that have been made by the chefs of the royal family that are rich and luscious. It covers the interesting varieties of street food available on this side of the ‘Land of the Kings’ in what is truly a gourmet destination in India."
 
Jodhpur: An Insight to a Gourmet Destination
By Gitanjali Gurbaxani
Publisher: Notion Press
Pages: 188


Rasheed Kidwai's Neta Abhineta is about film stars who went into politics.  According to the synopsis, "In a nation singularly obsessed with politics on the one hand and cinema on the other, the point where the two intersect arouses avid curiosity and interest. What draws the larger-than-life personalities who entertain us on screen to the world of governance and politics off-screen?

"Neta Abhineta: Bollywood Star Power in Indian Politics traces this phenomenon through intimate and compelling portrayals of some of the most popular actors in Hindi cinema who have, from the years leading up to India’s independence in 1947, entered Indian politics for reasons ranging from a sense of social commitment to a desperate quest for a second chance at fame when their star power dimmed. Dilip Kumar, Nargis and Sunil Dutt, Rajesh Khanna, Jaya and Amitabh Bachchan, Shatrughan Sinha, Hema Malini, Mithun Chakraborty, Jaya Prada, Vinod Khanna, Govinda, Raj Babbar and Paresh Rawal are some of the more prominent names that feature in this engaging account involving film veterans, superstars and also-rans. Blending history with hard facts and entertaining anecdotes about personal and professional rivalries, clandestine romantic liaisons and cruel betrayals, Rasheed Kidwai’s latest offering presents a potent cocktail. With its clear-eyed perspective on the peculiar nature of Indian politics and its newfound addiction to social media, as well as fresh and fascinating insights into the power games that drive show business and politics, this book reveals what ensues when the two worlds – as intensely alluring as they are dangerously fickle – merge."
 
Neta–Abhineta: Bollywood Star Power in Indian Politics
By Rasheed Kidwai
Publisher: Hachette India
Pages: 384

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